Ruby Walsh is one of the greatest Irish sportsmen. The 32-year-old Kildare native has ridden more Cheltenham Festival winners than any other jockey in the meeting’s history. In his only betting column with any bookmaker, Ruby tells us in his own words about his best bets for next week.
It’s a busy time of year for me. The Cheltenham Festival is what we all in the game build up to all year round. As always I’m hoping for a good week. I’ve got a great book of rides so fingers crossed it all goes well.
Prospect Wells is in good form ahead of the Supreme on Tuesday. He had a great run in the Ladbroke Hurdle before Christmas but disappointed in the Tolworth. I’d put a line through that. If you go back to his Ladbroke run, handicap experience is a big plus. He’s an each-way chance and is a great price for the value.
Al Ferof has a great chance in the Arkle even up against Sprinter Sacre. I’m not going to dwell on it, it’s a bet to nothing given Paddy Power’s concession on the race. You’d be mad not to back Al Ferof.
Rock on Ruby definitely has an each-way chance in the Champion Hurdle. I was more impressed with Binocular at Wincanton than at Kempton. The way he travelled in the race he looked like the horse of old. He travelled with spark whereas he was quite laboured at Kempton. Having said that, Cheltenham will play much more to Rock on Ruby’s strengths than at Kempton. Obviously you need speed to win the Champion but you do need some stamina too. Both Binocular and Rock on Ruby will be better horses but it’ll need to be a huge improvement to get close to Hurricane Fly. He’s a horse with a lot of tactical speed so he should win but not by much.
I schooled Join Together at home for Paul (Nicholls) a week or so ago and to be honest he has to improve to win the RSA Chase. He won well the last day and recovered from a bad mistake to win the day before that. He’s a stayer but whether he has the class to win this is another matter. I’m not quite sure he has the class for a Grade One. That said, he’s better than some of the others and I’d expect his to sneak into the places.
Finian’s Rainbow did well to win at Christmas but then went to Ascot and got beat by Somersby. I’ve got a feeling he’s a flat track horse. He was well beaten in the Arkle too 12 months ago. Kauto Stone is being switched back to the Queen Mother Champion Chase because he was very keen in his last race at Ascot. The Ryanair was an option but looks a little more competitive although not the hottest contest in terms of class. You can’t be afraid of one horse and we’re going to take on the favourite, but to be honest I’d love to be riding Sizing Europe.
Quevega is a bit of a madam. She has her moods. Working some days and not going others, but it’s like when somebody asks you for a fiver – you give it to him for the first time, maybe the second time but definitelty not for a third time. It’s the same with Quevega. Willie doesn’t ask many questions of her. He keeps her sweet and happy and produces her on the day he wants her. That’s the brilliance of the man. For a mare, there’s one big day, she needs to handled with care and Willie’s getting the best of her when others might not have got as much. She should go there and win. Unaccompanied will be her biggest danger in Mares Hurdle race but I’m confident of her chances.
Poquelin has struggled for the last two years at grade one company. He’s taught me a lot. He’s taught me the difference between a top class handicapper and a grade one horse. Even for someone who has been riding as long as me, I have learnt a lot from him about horses. His rating suggests he should be able to perform in a grade one but he doesn’t. Alberta’s Run is quite simply the old dog for the hard road and is the value bet of the race.
What more can be said about Big Buck’s? It’s unfair to compare him with the best two mile hurdlers, with regards to staying hurdlers, to me, Big Buck’s is on his own. He’s better than Inglis Drever, he’s better than Baracouda. He’s incredible. He’s beat Kasbah Bliss and when you look back at some of the horses he’s beaten, you know he’s top quality. I really hope he makes it’s a 16th consecutive with. He’s a superstar.
Pearl Swan is probably the obvious form horse of what I can ride in the Triumph. Plans are yet to be set in stone but he’s got the best form in the race. He’s beat Grumeti who’s the favourite and is also two from two. I was taken by Urbain de Sivola earlier in the year, but it’s a tough race and I can see a bit of a shock.
As for the Gold Cup, if you followed your heart all your life, you might be happy, but you’d never be rich. I’d love to win on Kauto Star again but it going to be tough. Synchronised is the obvious choice as an alternative for me, but I’ll be trying my best for the old boy on Gold Cup day.
Enjoy the festival!